Brothers and Sisters: Humanity lives in the chest of us all and, like the heart, it prefers to be on the left side! We must find it, we must find ourselves. It is not necessary to conquer the world. It is sufficient to make it new. Us. Today.
Democracy! Liberty! Justice!
- From the mountains of the Mexican South-east. Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. January 1996
There is still a lot to be said about President Obama.
Some of it can be aimed at the right wing of American politics in order to soothe their whiney depression. They truly think Obama is a “socialist” who is just going to ruin the country. While some can be aimed at the left, whom many still believe Obama is a progressive and will save the day.
These former groups of Americans are a small minority whereas the latter constitutes a considerable majority, at least judging by polling data (which is more accurate than some critics would like to admit, especially when considering that the polling data for the election was nearly identical to the results).
And for the comment that Obama will ruin the country why have they been so silent on President Bush for eight years? George Walker Bush did more damage than they would like to admit. So I am not sure I can trust their judgment.
I mean, coming from a group of voters who vote for a party who ridicules their opponents as “elitists” and boasts about being against “big government spending” they sure do seem to enjoy the company of wealthy, influential business leaders and spend lots of taxpayer money in the process.
Take for example the location choice for the Republican Party’s celebration in Texas: the Worthington hotel in downtown Fort Worth. They knew they would win easily despite a stronger Democrat turnout. The four star hotel is not cheap.
We might also consider the massive amounts of money spent on Palin and her family during the campaign; more than $150,000 in clothes.
Writers like Paul Street have documented extensively a critique from the Left, and these criticisms make much more sense than the exceptionally ignorant claims coming from the Right about being an Arab, Muslim, friends of terrorists and a socialist.
Most of Obama’s campaign financing came from the business community, which in American politics is akin to the power Mullah’s have in Iranian electoral politics. Plus, Obama, as Street repeatedly points out, is a lover of markets and has Adam Smith on his list of writers and thinkers he is reading.
And we cannot forget the interesting crowd of advisors Obama has been hanging around with.
If you go right now to his President-elect site (www.change.gov) and look at his agenda this is what you would read:
The principal priorities of the Obama Administration include: a plan to revive the economy, to fix our health care, education, and social security systems, to define a clear path to energy independence, to end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan, and to work with our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, among many other domestic and foreign policy objectives.
I want to pick out a few that strikes a chord with me personally, and some not mentioned.
First, social security. What about it does he plan to “fix”? As it stands the program is the soundest one we have and is paid for through 2049. What other government program can say that? There are two problems with Social Security.
- It is taxed regressively due to the cap of barely more than $100,000.00. This means that less than half of the annual income of the top 5% richest pays in.
- The next problem can be remedied by doing away with the cap mentioned above: the benefits are not enough!
I support fixing our health care system but I don’t think Obama is really offering the right solution. The solution is not tax credits to be used on private insurance in order to ensure high costs and profits of stockholders. The health of people should not be reduced to a commodity to be exploited to make a profit. The solution is a universal health care program that insures all. Right now we have nearly fifty-million uninsured yet we spend more than twice per capita as the rest of the developed world.
And how do we “end the war in Iraq responsibly”? What does that even mean? The war is illegal and immoral. It violates the very laws that were created out of the ashes of World War Two, and the lies and deceit poured into it have never covered up the consequences.
Just like the legal aspect, the best place to begin with explaining the immorality of this war is in the aftermath of World War Two when the US began taking a dominant position in geo-politics and economics. We propped up brutal governments to serve and protect our interests. Saddam Hussein was one of those. When he became a liability we demonized him and conveniently exploited the very crimes we supported in order to justify our aggression against him.
Then there was the sanctions regime which devastated the country. The main victims were also Saddam’s victims: the people of Iraq. With more than one million dead, over half of whom were children, and two UN Humanitarian Coordinators resigning in protest to what they called “genocidal” actions on the part of the US and UK (it might be worth noting that former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright said the murderous effects of the sanctions “were worth it”) the tragedy continued.
Utilizing our faulty pretext of WMD to justify our aggression we continued all the way through the end of Clinton administration – which bombed Iraq more than President Bush I – and into the Bush administration. Prior to the events on September 11, 2001 some truth could be heard about the alleged WMD programs.
In February 2001 Colin Powell (someone who might be in the Obama administration) told the world:
[Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
In June 2000 former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter wrote:
Given the comprehensive nature of the monitoring regime put in place by UNSCOM, which included a strict export-import control regime, it was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed.
Now not only were these comments made before the war but they are still grossly one-sided. They don’t take into consideration our own agenda and hypocrisy. They hold Iraq to a level of scrutiny that we never allow ourselves or our allies to be held to. If Iraq is a threat that needs to be singled out by the international community for their use of aggression and possession of WMD then what does that say about the US or Israel? This is an entirely fair question when considering our arguments for the use of force against Iraq or anyone else for that matter.
This illegal act of aggression that we perpetrated against Iraq and that has claimed the lives of millions of people and has produced countless other adverse results, to put it mildly, cannot be ended “responsibly” in no other way than to end it entirely, give a formal apology, pay reparations and turn over our leaders responsible for planning the criminal acts. We could also admonish our men and women in uniforms for violating their enlistment oaths when they obeyed unlawful orders.
The next issue I have with Obama’s “agenda” is the remark that we should “finish our mission in Afghanistan.” What is this mission? The war is illegal just like the Iraq War. We should be echoing former President Bush’s remark when Iraq invaded Kuwait: “This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”
Not only were we not attacked by Afghanistan and not only did we not get the authorization from the UN Security Council to use force and not only did the Taliban make numerous offers to turn over Osama bin Laden – which Bush rejected each time – but we also admitted several months after the bombing that we did not know who was responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. Let’s be straight with ourselves: we illegally bombed one of the poorest countries in the world despite repeated attempts to negotiate and with only a "thought" of who was guilty? This is wreckless criminal behavior and certainly not something that needs to be "finished."
As it stands our occupation has been preventing reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which the majority of the people of Afghanistan support. Also, our attacks are seeping over into Pakistan, much like the so-called secret war in Cambodia during the 1970s, which is exacerbating another issue altogether.
Obama made the comment on the previous campaign trail that the US “dropped the ball” in Afghanistan. This comment always disturbed me because it is not as if he was talking about playing soccer with the children of Afghanistan. He is talking about using lethal force on one of the poorest countries in the world. This is unacceptable.
And what about Iran? Outside of the fact that there isn’t any proof to our allegations and that the majority of the world is on Iran’s side (I mention this because Obama referenced working with “our allies”) we and “our allies” have no room to be talking when it comes to possessing nuclear weapons. Unlike Israel, Iran has not been attacking its neighbors from stolen land.
There is one issue that is largely missing from the President-elects agenda: Pentagon budget. While there was a lot of criticism against the Wall Street Bailout on the grounds it was, well, a “bailout” or needles handouts to the rich who need to survive on their own, no one pointed out that at the same time Congress voted on “defense spending,” which like usual passed with overwhelming support.
The defense budget has long been used as corporate welfare, pork barrel spending and weapons that not only don’t get used, but as in the case of those that do get used like landmines and depleted uranium, shouldn’t be.
With all of this being said, and much more that wasn’t, the election was still a reflection of the noticeable move to the Left. Available opinion polls have long shown the American public as being much further to the left than policy makers and legislators. And perhaps it was the timing of this election that made it inevitable for the candidates to rely on populist rhetoric to get elected – the economic woes were too severe for politicians to ignore and the only way to reach the concerned voters was by adopting positions similar to theirs. For example, whereas my congressman, Joe Barton, had long been a stooge for big business he painted himself as a semi-populist looking out for workers and taxpayers.
We also cannot ignore the significance of the election as it pertains to race relations. Things have gotten better. We can debate how much further we have to go but the fact that America elected an African American as their president illustrates some success.
In summary the election highlighted an opportunity for change, and undoubtedly we will continue our organizing efforts. And while Obama may not be the progressive many of his supporters found him to be the most pertinent question for is: Considering the narrowness of our electoral choices as being between McCain and Obama who do we suspect we might have the best chance of success in reaching and dealing with? I cannot help but think that our move to the left was the right move.